Road Tripping & Tessering Through California, Nevada and Oregon

There’s something that puts my mind at ease about being on the open road. I will fly when I need to, but I find that security checks, long lines and baggage claim get in the way of enjoying the experience of the journey. I had been looking forward to my latest trip since we started planning it a few months ago. My favorite road buddy Tim Pershing and I set out on a Saturday morning for an adventure that would take us to Reno, Ashland, Napa and points in between.

The drive to Reno meant trekking up the 395 and through Bishop, CA. Tim wrote about a recent drive on this highway last month in the Reno Gazette-Journal. We had lunch at Jack’s (as we have on previous trips through Bishop) and then visited Spellbinder Books, a gem at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Be sure to check out their local section for some interesting books on the region. I picked up No Rooms of Their Own: Women Writers of Early California, 1849-1869 edited by Ida Rae Egli.

After a visit with some friends in the Reno, NV area, we hit the road for Ashland, OR. Even though small, independent bookstores seem to be disappearing, several have managed to survive in Ashland. Our first stop was Bloomsbury Books—a good place to pick up Shakespeare related books and items.

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Shakespeare Books & Antiques had a whole bookcase dedicated to banned books, which included quite a few of my favorites. It is just a reminder that I need to be reading more banned books. Where there is controversy, there is often a good story.

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We also visited Antiquarium Books & Antiques, where every shelf, nook and wall was filled with bits of the past. This is the kind of place where a mannequin hand could be at peace resting on an old copy of The Paris Review and a typewriter. To walk through the tight pathways of books, rusty tins, knick-knacks, faded furniture and dusty magazines was truly like travelling back in time.

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Our main reason for visiting Ashland was seeing a stage adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was part of the 2014 season of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). The OSF staging of this book seemed to be for people like me who fell in love with the story as a child. The experience of reading the book is as much a character in the play as Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin are. Throughout the production, characters are on stage reading from copies of the text. One of the most present readers is a girl who at times works on a science experiment on stage right. She and the other readers serve as our gateway into this story in that they take us into the action at the place we first entered it when reading the book. It is a place where the words on the page meet our imagination and where bed sheets can form the wings of a centaur-like creature. It also allows us, for a brief moment, to believe that the concept of traveling through space and time by tessering seems like a real possibility.

The set was minimal, making the play somewhat conceptual in that it asked the audience to supply their imagination to fill in gaps. The effect meant that at times I felt like I was reading instead of seeing a play. The OSF interpretation of the story was a reminder of why I love L’Engle’s book so much, and I highly recommend it to anyone who feels the same way about the original text.

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While you are in Ashland for the theatre scene and bookstores, make the drive north to Central Point to visit Rogue Creamery. We bought some Echo Mountain Blue Cheese. All other blues pale in comparison to this amazing cheese, and it went quite nicely with the wine we bought next door at Ledger David Cellars. The two businesses share a parking lot with Lillie Belle Farms Chocolate Shop. I find the idea of eating chocolate to be as appetizing as devouring a bowl of dirt, so this obviously is not my kind of store (I’ll give you a moment to get over your shock of someone hating chocolate), but I know many of my chocophile friends would think this place was heaven with its cases of beautiful handmade chocolates and friendly staff. They even have Smokey Blue Cheese Truffles made with cheese from Rogue Creamery.

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Our trip finished with a stop in Napa for a few days before we made the drive back to Los Angeles. The highlight of our stay in Napa was a visit to Kasten Family Wines, which is owned by some fellow California Lutheran University alumni. This winery grew out of their love for winemaking, and that shows in the quality and richness of their wines.

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It was hard to return, knowing that meetings, blog posts and presentation preparation were waiting for us when we got back to LA. But we are back at work, so we can earn the money to feed the travel addiction. I have already picked out the plays I want to see during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 season, so perhaps another trip to Ashland isn’t too far off.

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Thoughts on Girlhood

“I don’t know how it is with boys. I’ve never been a boy. But girls somewhere between the ages of, say, eight and puberty, girls forget they have bodies. It’s the time she has trouble keeping herself clean, socks always drooping, knees pocked and bloody, hair crooked as a broom. She doesn’t look in mirrors. She isn’t aware of being watched. Not aware her body is causing men to look at her yet. There isn’t the sense of the female body’s volatility, its rude weight, the nuisance of dragging it about. There isn’t the world to bully you with it, bludgeon you, condemn you to a life sentence of fear. It’s the time when you look at a young girl and notice she is at her ugliest, but at the same time, at her happiest. She is a being as close to a spirit as a spirit.”

—From Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (Pages 433-434)


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Recently Reading Rainbow Mom Jenni Buchanan blogged about “The Best Friends That Never Were: 3 Unlikely Pairings.” This got me to thinking about some dream best-friend pairings from my favorite books. Lyra from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and Scout from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird were at the top of my list. While daydreaming about other literary friendships, I started thinking about girlhood in some of my favorite books. At the beginning of their books, both Lyra and Scout embody the kind of girlhood Cisneros refers to in the passage above. Caramelo itself takes up the notion of girlhood in this passage and tells us the story of Lala.

It’s a freeing sort of idea to remember a time when things like skinned knees, messy hair and the fact that I had not showered for a couple days didn’t bother me. Reading the stories of these girls makes me nostalgic for a time when I was not worried about how others saw me.

We are constantly bombarded with messages about how a woman is supposed to look and behave and what products she needs to buy to achieve that. Every time we step out of the house, it is hard not to think about whether our appearance is acceptable. If we opt for sweat pants, it is often with an excuse about why we had to dress down that day. It is hard for women to feel free in their bodies when we are constantly aware of how others may see us and judge us. 

I am a big fan of Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. Aside from awakening a lifelong interest in stories about time travel, this book gave me a main character I could identify with in her struggle to fit in—even as an adult. Meg is taking her first steps beyond the phase of girlhood Cisneros mentions. She finds her strength in realizing she has the ability within herself to save her brother. For this reason, I think it is important that we go back and revisit our favorite literary girls from time to time. Girls like Scout, Lyra, Lala and Meg show us that there are possibilities for being smart, brave, strong and free—even as we look back on girlhood and realize what it means to be women. They also remind us that deep inside us there is still the girl that Cisneros writes about.

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Click on the titles of the books mentioned in this post to be taken to Powells.com to buy a copy, or head to your local library or favorite independent bookstore.

Work Cited:

Cisneros, Sandra. Caramelo. New York: Vintage Books, 2002. Print.